FORWARD OPERATING BASE WILSON, Iraq — Spoiled fruit, dead bread, stale snail mail.

Life isn’t always so good for troops stuck at the end of a long supply line.

That’s where soldiers from Troop C of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment found themselves when they arrived last March at FOB Wilson, a little camp just south of Tikrit.

Everything they needed to live and fight a war — food, water, truck parts, ammunition, mail, toilet paper, and Stars and Stripes, to name a few — had to travel by truck through a long supply chain. It snaked from the seaport in Kuwait through hubs in Tikrit and Balad to the squadron headquarters at Forward Operating Base MacKenzie before reaching Wilson.

Furthermore, not everything requested was making the entire journey to Wilson, with some items disappearing along the way.

“It’s no one’s fault,” said Capt. Paul Krattiger, 31, of Albuquerque, N.M., the troop commander, “but that’s the way the system works.”

The leaders quickly realized they’d be short of everything unless they figured out the system.

First, Capt. Dan Baldi, Troop C’s executive officer, and the noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the motor pool, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hanson, climbed in their trucks and visited nearby bases before the 4th Infantry Division units that preceded them went home. They snagged hundreds of leftover parts the 4th ID didn’t want to haul home.

“The parts were there — you just had to do the legwork to go get them,” said Baldi, 25, of New Milford, Conn.

Then they visited the logistics hub at Forward Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit — only 15 miles away, but three links up the supply chain.

They made friends with the soldiers from the support battalions who pushed out the mail, the food, the newspapers. Could they set aside C Troop’s stuff if someone came to pick it up? Sure, no problem.

“We’ve tried to cut out the middleman,” Baldi said.

Mail delivery time from the United States dropped from two weeks to one week. Stars and Stripes was a day or two old instead of a week old. Fruits and vegetables arrived still fresh.

Troop leaders say twisting the supply tail has paid dividends in morale. Of course, it means assembling a small convoy of trucks twice a week for the half-hour run to Speicher. In a way, it’s a tribute to the flexibility of the Army system — and the ingenuity of the soldiers who have to live with that system.

“It works,” said Hanson, 38, of Maquoketa, Iowa. “We make it work.”

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